Start Early. Start well.

June 06, 2017

National Symposium in Omaha Focuses on Critical Issues for Supporting Parents

Omaha, Neb. — Strategies to support and help parents are the focus of a national symposium today in Omaha. More than 200 researchers, practitioners, philanthropists, and advocates are participating in the event, which is hosted by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska in collaboration with the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Presentations and discussions will highlight several critical issues raised in Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8, a landmark report from the National Academies that describes key aspects of parenting that matter for young children and identifies effective interventions such as well-child care, center-based child care such as Head Start, and home visiting programs.

Federal efforts also support parents through income and nutrition assistance, health care, and housing programs. But the report notes that the network of programs serving parents is, at best, loosely organized, and that many parents need a more coordinated, ongoing set of services, or framework, for support.

“Parents and families are our most powerful allies in supporting young children’s development and learning. But parents need support, too,” said Samuel J. Meisels, founding executive director of the Buffett Institute.

“Too many parents and families are suffering from the stress and toxicity that can accompany poverty, social inequity, and familial challenges.”

In Nebraska, more than 21 percent of children age 5 and younger are living in poverty, according to the 2016 Kids Count in Nebraska Report.

Additionally at today’s symposium at the Hilton Omaha, the Buffett Institute will share the findings from Nebraska Parents Speak About Early Care and Education, the fourth and final report from the Buffett Early Childhood Institute/Gallup Survey on Early Care and Education in Nebraska. More than 7,100 residents responded to the statewide survey, making it the largest and most comprehensive public opinion poll conducted on early childhood issues in Nebraska.

The study revealed agreement among parents of young children and Nebraskans without children that the state should make a greater investment in early care and education. As expected, parents with young children feel most strongly, with nearly two-thirds stating that Nebraska’s investment is too low. However, six in 10 respondents without children say there is too little investment in early childhood care and education.

Overwhelming majorities of parents with young children (78%) and Nebraskans without children (72%) agree or strongly agree that the state should make public programs available for 4-year-olds from families who choose to use them. Majorities of parents with young children (59%) and Nebraskans without children (55%) recognize the need for programs for 3-year-olds.

“The resounding support from residents without children is eye-opening,” Meisels said. “These findings confirm more needs to be done to ensure programs are affordable for all Nebraska families—especially those living in poverty.”

Issues surrounding poverty, family leave policy, child health, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (traumatic or stressful events that have lasting impact on health and well-being) will be addressed by national and local experts at today’s Parenting Matters symposium.

Among the featured speakers is AERA Immediate Past President Vivian L. Gadsden, chair of the national Parenting Matters study committee, professor of child development and education at the University of Pennsylvania, and member of the Buffett Institute’s national Board of Advisors.

“The findings in the Parenting Matters report have meaning for families and communities,” Gadsden said. “The key is to think innovatively about how we transfer this knowledge into practice and public policies that make a difference.”

Joining Meisels and Gadsden are Kim Boller, Mathematica Policy Research; Paul Chung, UCLA; Brenda Jones Harden, University of Maryland; Iheoma Iruka, Buffett Early Childhood Institute and HighScope Educational Research Foundation; Sarah Ann Kotchian, Holland Children’s Institute; Melissa Tibbits, University of Nebraska
Medical Center; and Tony Vargas, District 7, Nebraska Legislature.

The full Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8 report is available for download on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine website. For more information about the Buffett Early Childhood Institute/Gallup Survey on Early Childhood Care and Education in Nebraska, visit

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